Draft Amendment 8 is our for comment

I am still reading the draft, but looks like open access rod and reel category swordfish permit is real.

Limit in Florida would be 1 fish per trip, Charter Head boats can participate when not on a for hire trip.

This is a commercial permit requiring certain commercial vessel regulations including safety at sea.

Elsewhere permit would allow 2 to 3 fish per trip with NMFS ability to raise to 6 fish or drop to zero fish.

I will have much more to say when I finish my read


  • Long GoneLong Gone Posts: 82 Deckhand
    Would place a full time, one fish per boat, bag limit for all such permit holders in the SE region. Such a vessel could never keep more than one sword. I would guess that is likely to greatly reduce interest from the recs.
  • Long Gone wrote: »
    Would place a full time, one fish per boat, bag limit for all such permit holders in the SE region. Such a vessel could never keep more than one sword. I would guess that is likely to greatly reduce interest from the recs.

    That is done to protect the value of the permits that existing limited access permit holders have. If you want unlimited fish, pay the big bucks, if you can accept one fish go for it.

    Fact is it is not a permanent limit and can be adjusted from 0 to 6 at any time by agency mid season adjustments.

    If the rec fishery is not impacted by the new permit, you could see limits go upwards. The option was to not allow the new permits into the Florida FEC at all.
  • Long GoneLong Gone Posts: 82 Deckhand
    They seemed suprised at the meeting when I told them being able to sell a single fish wasnt worth having to take my days first catch and go home...to me. Maybe they raise the limit someday isnt really worth signing up for one per boat today IMO.
    Apparently I wouldnt be allowed to fish for catch and release marlin or sailfish either if I get one of the proposed permits, unless its an HMS sanctioned tourney??? I dont really get that either. What does releasing sailfish have to do with selling swordfish? Is all that worth selling one swordfish whos average weight would be like 80 lbs cored (126 lbs whole weight according to the presentation) ? Not to me.
    I was somewhat in favor but now, after reading it all, I think for the SE Atlantic region anyway, there will be very little participation. Thats my take, I could certainly be wrong. Maybe one guy gets it and he sells everyone in towns recreational caught swordfish on the side. That I can see happening under this plan.
    My opinion anyway. Not arguing anything, just giving my view as a swordfisherman.
    Id also add that I dont believe it is NOAA or HMS job to be making Atlantic Ocean-wide management decisions with the goal of "protecting the value" of 77 guys handgear permits.
  • Al_hmsAl_hms Posts: 200 Officer
    After reviewing the proposed rule and going to the hearing in St Pete I have written a brief summary of NOAA’s recently proposed Amendment 8 related to open access permits for swordfish, followed by my thoughts on the proposed regulations. Ron or anyone else please feel free to let me know if you see somewhere that I have misinterpreted the proposed rule. I'm hoping this is an easier read that the whole rule.

    The stated purpose of the Amendment is:
    “To provide additional opportunities for U.S. fishermen to harvest available swordfish quota using selective gears that are low in bycatch…”

    The proposed rule would allow for a vessel owner to purchase the permit and then catch and sell swordfish to licensed swordfish dealers. The catch limit for the permit holders would be subject to regional (look at the maps in the amendment) restrictions, with 3 fish allowed in the Gulf of Mexico, 3 in the Northwest Atlantic zone, 2 in the Caribbean zone, and 1 on the east coast of Florida to the Keys. These regional bag limits could be adjusted to any number from 0 to 6 at any time based on the monitoring of total swordfish catch relative to the allowable quota. Additionally, permit holders would be required to have their vessel inspected and meet coast guard safety requirements for operation, and they would no longer be allowed to fish for any billfish (other than swordfish) unless they are fishing in a registered billfish tournament, tunas (unless they have a commercial permit for tunas), or sharks (unless they have a commercial permit for sharks). This is because a vessel with one of these new swordfish permits could not also have a recreational HMS permit. This makes it very clear that anyone holding this permit is not a recreational fisherman, but rather a commercial fisherman. The gears authorized to catch the fish would be restricted to rod & reel, handline, harpoon, bandit gear, and green-stick gear.

    Existing HMS charter/headboat permit holders would already be covered under the HMS charter/headboat permit and would not need to purchase one of these new swordfish permits. This means that any vessel owner operating with an HMS charter/headboat permit would be able to catch and sell swordfish (subject to their regional bag limit) when they are not on a for-hire trip. For the charter/headboat operators only rod & reel and handline gears would be authorized.

    NOAA projects that this new rule would have a negligible effect on the swordfish stock. It should result in some economic gains for successful participants, and there is a chance that more fish caught could have an impact on prices at the dock.
    NOAA is specifically requesting comments related to:

    • the boundaries for the regions, especially the Florida area
    • retention limits
    • criteria for adjustment of retention limits
    • requirements to comply with the retention limits at sea and at the dock

    My Thoughts:
    This new type of permit could be held concurrently with other commercial permits. So Bluefin general category fishermen could also fish swordfish, or grouper fishermen could fish swordfish at night while at sea. This will allow those fishermen to supplement their revenue from their existing operation, and should help get the US catch somewhat closer to the quota. If nothing else the new rule is probably a useful thing for the ICCAT delegates to use as justification of why the unused US share of swordfish should not be distributed to other nations. For many recreational fishermen in the Florida Swordfish Area (which is projected to be the entire east coast all the way through the Keys) it probably won’t make a lot of sense to get this permit. NOAA estimates that the average fish will bring around $400 at the dealer. However a one fish limit is fairly restrictive, and exclusion from recreational fishing for billfish and tuna is a heavy price to pay. Add having to get your vessel up to the required standards for the Coast Guard inspection and the cost of entry versus the possible payout won’t entice the masses. In the Gulf of Mexico and the Northwest Atlantic the distances which must be traveled to get to the fishing grounds makes this an expensive proposition. In general, I doubt that many recreational fishermen will be rushing to join the commercial fishery. This does provide a way for recreational fishermen who are already catching swordfish and selling them illegally to get legal, and that is a good thing. Personally, if the goal is to encourage participation I would suggest using NOAA’s option (you’re going to have to look at the actual document to see it) which has a smaller Florida Swordfish Area and would allow for more participation on the east coast of Florida. The other option would be to start the bag limits higher to see if that encourages participation, and then reduce the limits if the participation is much greater than anticipated. Currently NOAA is trying to balance the interests of the existing commercial sector with the desire to maximize the value of a healthy fishery with available quota, not necessarily an easy task. In general I support the proposed rule, as I think it will be beneficial for the ICCAT delegate, but I doubt it will make much of a difference for most fishermen.
  • Al,

    I agree. The instant change is Charter Boat will now be able to sell when not on a "for hire" trip. As an ICCAT delegate, I love the rule for just the reasons you stated about that issue.

    Don't forget that we met 80% of our baseline quota last year and that was with the second "season" at 102% of baseline. The important part is we are slowly losing our "carry forward" but I have never agreed with the principle of the carry forward. If you leave it in the Ocean, next season starts from scratch in my book.

    Those who want to participate and not lose the ability to recreational fish can only do so if they get a captains license and do the CHB permit.

    I will give you a call to talk or have lunch when I get a few things done and we get closer to the public hearing.
  • testerman28testerman28 Posts: 1,329 Officer
    Ron, thanks for taking the time to read all the stuff and try to lay it all out for us. It is really cool we can now go out and catch a swordfish with our friends but to add the cost up in fuel and expenses it would be crazy to go for just 1..
  • Long GoneLong Gone Posts: 82 Deckhand

    Those who want to participate and not lose the ability to recreational fish can only do so if they get a captains license and do the CHB permit.

    Correct me if Im wrong but there is no requirement for capts license, or anything else, to get a CHB HMS sword permit right now. Click the box and it comes in the mail. Something that may need to be considered if this idea goes forward.
  • Al_hmsAl_hms Posts: 200 Officer
    For any who are interested in submitting comments, it is pretty easy and the time period is winding down.

    Go to www.regulations.gov and search for NOAA-NMFS-2013-0026.

    Added bonus you can read the comments that other people have posted if you have a bunch of spare time and some nuerons you want turned to jelly.
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